The second half of the game dominates for five episodes and even then it only gets us down to the last couple of minutes.
What They Say:
Hanamichi Sakuragi, an entering Shohoku high school freshman holds a record for being rejected by 50 girls during middle school. His nearly 2 meters height and bright red hair causes most students to write him off as a delinquent. One day, a girl named Haruko Akagi approaches Hanamichi without any fear. When she asks Hanamichi: "do you like basketball?" Hanamichi falls head over heels for the girl of his dreams. Without missing a beat, Hanamichi tells her he loves basketball, and the two head to the gymnasium where Hanamichi learns about the slam dunk. He also learns of Rukawa, one of the country’s top basketball prospects, also a freshman at Shohoku.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Slam Dunk continues to flow right along and this segment of the series certainly feels more in line with what we had earlier, rather than the short rounds just before this. While some of the matches in the interschool preliminaries have gone by very fast, the game against Shoyo is one that demands extra attention. And extra attention it gets as this round of five episodes, encompassing forty-one through forty-five, covers some seventeen minutes worth of actual game time. That can be draining when watched on a weekly basis as it has small movements forward, but when you can watch a batch of episodes in a row, the flow is just right in watching Shohoku move with the ebb and flow of the game.
The first half of the game was really fun to watch as the Shohoku guys had to deal with a much taller team and one that nearly won the whole shebang last year. They’ve had a very good run so far in the games this season after they had their first outing against Ryonan and each new game has shown them where they needed to grow and how to bond and work better. Shoyo however is a very different beast as they’re very good with tall players who can read their opponents well and play near perfection in a lot of ways. Even worse is that their star player, Fujima, isn’t even on the court as he’s got the role of a player-coach and is spending most of his time as the coach. But after Shohoku held them off from a mental victory in the first half, Fujima has decided it’s time for him to get into the game now and that changes the dynamic again as a very fresh and eager young man leaps into things. His presence revitalizes the Shoyo team and he provides something new for all the spectators – and potential future competitors – to see.
Naturally, the fun in a show like this is watching the players overcome their obstacles. Now that we have what seems to be a fully rounded out team, the focus narrows down to moving each of them forward in different ways. Mitsui is the main focus here, though they are also positioning Sakuragi as well. His sudden rise to being a rebound king, encouraged by others on the team, is certainly help his ego but he still wants to make more baskets to catch up to Rukawa. Of course, he’s awful at it so he’s just continually mocked by everyone, including well placed deadpanned pieces by Rukawa. While Anzai does consider Sakuragi a key to winning the game, he also puts that label on Mitsui and a good deal of focus is given to him. This does feel like a bit much considering we just went through all the gang side activity with him, but Mitsui makes out well by it.
Since he’s not participated heavily until recently, a full length game like this is starting to take its toll on him. While he was the MVP superstar in middle school, which has very different rules as well, the two year break and lack of regular training has him feeling the activity very strongly as the second half winds down into its final minutes. His determination is strong and when he finds that Shoyo’s Hasegawa is doing a one on one match with him, he becomes all the more intent on breaking past him. The realization that Hasegawa was the one in the bathroom who said he’d destroy him since he never could during middle school gives Mitsui what he needs to carry on. There’s also some wonderful inspirational flashback material to the past when coach Anzai saw Mitsui playing in middle school which ties things together very well. I haven’t been too much of a fan of Mitsui since he came back to basketball with his “I’m an MVP!” attitude, but this arc has helped to humble him a bit and expose more of what he’s really like.
Though I do dislike shows when they drag out too much, the back and forth between Shohoku and Shoyo is a key moment of the series. Shoyo has a lot on the line because they’ve gotten close to taking it all and they feel they’re in a stronger position this year and have the determination to back it up. Shohoku has been on the fringes for a bit with some great if unpolished players and they’re in their last season for some of them who want to end on a high note. The rawness of Shohoku and the way they’re coming together, figuring out what works both personally and as a team, is some of the best material to it. And things like this in a sports context takes a bit longer to be established. I may want to see more of it happening quickly, but I love the pacing overall and enjoy watching each player react to the situations they’re in and figuring out how to snatch victory as best they can. This is simply fun and wonderful material to savor.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.